The new Flogger variant came about as an answer to the flaws of the ground-attack variant of the MiG-23. The first prototype flew in 1972.
The MiG-27 is very similar to the MiG-23, but has a somewhat simplified powerplant and more fuel economy. Top speed is lower, at 1200 mph compared to 1550 mph for the MiG-23. A 30 mm multi-barrel cannon replaces the 23 mm gun of the MiG-23, and the airframe can carry a 30 percent greater ordinance load, which can include tactical nuclear weapons.
A Soviet unit of MiG-27s arrived in Iraq in March of 1985 during the Iran-Iraq War, to assist the Iraqi war effort and to test the Flogger in combat. The Soviet pilots flew in support of Iraqi counter-attacks against the Iranian Fatima Zahra offensive, using bombs and AS-14 air-to-surface missiles. The Floggers made many successful strikes, prompting the Iranians to redeploy some of their F-14 interceptors. In late March, the Iranian pilots sprang an ambush, and four MiG-27s were shot down, three by Tomcats and one by an F-4 Phantom, with the loss of three pilots. The unit was withdrawn immediately.
Sri Lanka bought MiG-27s from Ukraine starting in May of 2000, although the purchase was kept secret initially. The new MiGs saw combat for the first time on August 8 of that year, when three of them attacked Tamil Tiger positions near Jaffna. During Operation Kinihira in early 2001, MiG-27s, along with IAI Kfirs, flew several missions against rebel artillery positions. By late February, Sri Lankan Floggers had flown 73 combat sorties and dropped over 900 tons of ordinance. More strikes followed in March and April, severely hurting the rebels. No MiGs were shot down, but one was destroyed and another was damaged on the ground by Tamil sappers in a raid on Katunayake Airbase on July 24, 2001.